9 Things that Actually Matter for Fat Loss
The advice you can find on how to lose fat is not only infinite, it’s often conflicting. I decided to make it easy for you to figure out what’s worth your time and what isn’t.
Let’s get right to it.
People tend to focus on diet and exercise, but you might want to consider starting with better sleep.
I’m putting this one first not because it’s MORE important than the others, but because it’s AS important, yet easily the most undervalued component of fat loss.
1. Sleep Quantity
Plain and simple: if you aren’t getting at least 7 hours of sleep, you’ll have trouble losing fat and getting in shape. It’s possible you even need 8, 9, or 10 hours each night to get your body functioning efficiently.
2. Sleep Quality
Even if you get enough sleep, if the quality of your sleep is poor, you’ll still have trouble reaching your goals.
That’s a bit more difficult to assess, and I won’t go into the details here (because I have this in-depth blog about it). The point is that sleep should not be overlooked.
This is a complex topic that I won’t pretend to be qualified to tell you how to resolve. Still, it’s important to be aware it’s a piece of the fat loss puzzle.
3. Stress Management
Stress has a very real effect on your hormones, and your hormones have a very real effect on your fat loss efforts. If you want to lose fat and get in shape, but you lead a high-stress life… it needs to be addressed.
My personal recommendation: if you know stress is a problem for you, see a therapist.
Getting in shape without a trainer or nutrition coach is darn near impossible; dealing with mental health (a far more complicated matter) without a professional is just plain unwise.
It’s obvious that your diet is an important aspect of fat loss. I’m breaking it down into a few key pieces that matter most.
4. Food Quality
Many diets could be fixed by eating out less and cutting back on ultra-processed foods (e.g. most foods that come in a box, bag, can, etc.).
It’s a simple solution, but not an easy undertaking.
Start small. Build upon your habits. And stop worrying about the little details (like organic vs. non-organic, lettuce vs. kale, whole milk vs. skim).
Those things don’t matter nearly as much as just having a diet that consists of mostly unprocessed (single-ingredient) foods.
5. Food Quantity
Although food quality is important, eating too much of even a good thing can still make you overweight.
There’s no need to overcomplicate this. This is another one where I won’t go into all the details (because I have another blog about it here). Just know that all you need is a basic guideline on how much food you should be eating.
And stay away from extremes.
If you’re eating an obviously excessive amount of any type of food, you’ll run into problems. Or, if your diet is forcing you to cut out foods that could generally be considered “normal,” you’ll likely run into problems there, too.
I won’t tell you that you have to eat any specific foods. If you don’t like chicken, don’t eat it. If you do better without dairy, skip it. You don’t even have to eat your broccoli if you don’t want to.
But you do need to eat some kind of veggie as often as possible (ideally at every meal).
It will give you the nutrients you need to help your body function efficiently, so it can burn fat effectively. It also has the added bonus of filling your stomach with low calorie foods.
I won’t give you a strict guideline on how much water to drink every day. The only thing that really matters is that water becomes your go-to beverage. If you’re thirsty, drink water. When you have a meal, drink water.
You can still enjoy a soda from time to time. Your daily coffee habit doesn’t have to go. Even alcohol is still permitted within reason (read about alcohol and fat loss here).
Just prioritize water.
By doing so, you may cut a ton of calories from other drinks, and, once again, you’ll be giving your body what it needs to function optimally. Both of which are favorable for fat loss.
Like diet, exercise is an obvious choice for many when it comes to losing fat. There are only a couple things in this department to focus on.
8. Resistance Training
When it comes to getting in a little better shape, any type of exercise is beneficial. However, when it comes to fat loss specifically, resistance/strength training (e.g. lifting weights, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, etc.) is key.
When you’re in a calorie deficit, you will lose weight. Resistance training ensures the weight that comes off is from excess-fat loss, rather than healthy muscle.
Not only is that better for your health, it also helps with maintaining fat loss in the long-term.
In comparison, aerobic training (aka “cardio”) can help you lose fat, but it can also cause more muscle loss. You could combine cardio with strength training, which certainly helps for all-around better fitness, but when looking strictly at fat loss, resistance training comes out on top.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to do a lot. Even a couple days of exercise a week will help.
9. Daily Activity
Living a more active lifestyle can also make a significant difference for fat loss.
This could include going for walks, playing a sport, gardening, bike rides, laser tag, hopscotch, mud wrestling, chasing greased up pigs… pretty much anything that gets you off your butt.
The additional activity could burn a few extra calories, but more importantly, it will improve your health in a way that makes losing fat a bit easier.
What Doesn’t Matter
There are other things that can help you lose fat, but most of them won’t help enough to be worth getting bogged down in the details.
You don’t need a specific diet. You don’t have to follow the exercise program you bought on DVD fifteen years ago. It doesn’t matter if you go to bed early or prefer to wake up late. You don’t have to eat or workout at certain times of day.
I could go on and on.
There are individual factors you should take into consideration when making fitness decisions, but the bottom line is this:
If it doesn’t point you in the direction of one of the nine things listed here… it’s probably not that important.
Of course, there are ways that even things on this list can be misunderstood and misapplied. When that happens, it only makes fat loss all the more stressful because you feel like you're doing everything right and still not getting results.
To help you avoid that — and to take the overwhelm out of weight loss — we created a free guide that shows you 5 myths to avoid, and the 5 myth-busting rules that you can easily follow instead.